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Lightroom Organization in 3 Simple Steps

Lightroom Organization in 3 Simple Steps

“Lightroom Organization in 3 Simple Steps” is a part of my Lightroom Tutorials collection on PhotoTraces. You’ll find the remainder of the tutorials right here: Lightroom Tutorials.

Lightroom Organization in 3 Simple StepsLightroom Organization in 3 Simple Steps

This submit was impressed by considered one of my readers from Europe. Felix just lately switched from Aperture to Lightroom and now he’s struggling to seek out the correct organizational system for his photographs in Lightroom.


My preliminary reply to Felix was that each one of us, which means all Lightroom customers, struggled at one time or one other with the organizational system and that there’s, sadly, no good answer. We’re all looking for a system that matches our private wants.

At this time, I need to share my very own system and present you the way it has advanced through the years.

You’ll study:

  • How I arrange photograph information on my arduous drive
  • What duties I carry out when importing pictures into Lightroom
  • How I choose the perfect photographs for processing and archiving

Challenges of Lightroom Organization

I consider the primary situation with Lightroom is that it has so many choices for organizing pictures and, in consequence, a number of choices convey pointless complexity.

Lightroom has the next organizational options:

Fast assortment, Flagging, Starring, Colour Tagging, Collections, Sensible Collections.

Once I began with Lightroom, I attempted to make use of all of them to provide you with an elaborate system that was unimaginable to maintain for lengthy. Each time I failed with one system, I might provide you with an much more complicated scheme. And, sooner or later, I noticed that it was time to simplify your complete course of.

I made a decision to examine what sort of techniques different photographers employed. That’s once I found a totally minimalistic system utilized by some wedding ceremony and occasion photographers.

On the finish of the occasion, they import a number of thousand pictures into Lightroom and undergo them one or two occasions and FLAG solely pictures with potential (keepers).

They find yourself with 200-300 or so keepers after which delete the remaining with out hesitation. Quick and environment friendly.

Despite the fact that I favored that strategy, I knew it will not work for me with out tweaking it as fairly often I wish to undergo my previous rejected photographs, those I by no means processed or revealed, and attempt to discover missed golden nuggets.

I’ve observed that whenever you develop as a photographer, you begin to take a look at sure points of images in another way, plus you study new approaches to course of pictures and, fairly often it outcomes in reviving some rejected, previous photographs.

Under are two examples of very previous and rejected pictures I found in my Lightroom archives and processed lately.

Lightroom Organization - East River Sunset Shower Lightroom Organization - East River Sunset Shower

East River Sundown Bathe (New York)

Lightroom Organization - Reviving the rejected photosLightroom Organization - Reviving the rejected photos

Manhattan Skyline from Brooklyn Bridge (New York)

I used a minimalistic strategy; I discovered from occasion photographers, as the bottom for my very own system and constructed upon it.

My organizational system has 3 primary elements:

  • Information group on arduous drive
  • Renaming and tagging throughout import
  • Assortment-based strategy for choosing, processing and archiving pictures

Lightroom Folder Construction

Whenever you import pictures right into a Lightroom catalog, the Lightroom doesn’t arrange the information for you. You possibly can maintain them anyplace you need in your pc and even on an exterior drive. Though it provides us full management over information group, typically it might trigger issues once you hold your pictures in totally different locations in your pc.

Please observe, if you rename a single file or transfer the whole folder to a different location and also you do it from outdoors of Lightroom (utilizing Finder or Explorer for instance), Lightroom has no technique of monitoring the modifications and people information will doubtless be misplaced.
If you have to rename or transfer your pictures, do it from inside Lightroom.

In an effort to forestall unintentional removing of the information from a Lightroom catalog, I maintain photographs in one location and make it possible for I by no means transfer them round or rename them outdoors of Lightroom.

I hold all my pictures on the identical arduous drive
I maintain all my pictures in one grasp listing

Under is the schematic view of the folders group of my photographs. That is precisely how my photographs are organized on my pc’s onerous drive.

Lightroom Organization - Hard Drive OrganizationLightroom Organization - Hard Drive Organization

The file construction I exploit is 3 ranges deep. I manage photographs by yr and by undertaking or location. I really like this chronological group as that is one of the best group for my workflow.

As a result of I’m a journey photographer and my journeys often last more than in the future, I exploit location based mostly naming conference with out particular dates (month solely).

Relying in your workflow you’ll be able to tailor folder naming on your particular wants. For instance, you can also make it undertaking based mostly and date particular: 2015-10-29 500px Photoshoot.​

Importing Pictures into Lightroom

Earlier than I transfer any additional, I need to stress that I don’t use a number of Lightroom catalogs. I’ve just one catalogue for all my photograph actions. I do know that some photographers use a number of catalogues to separate their private and professional images however it by no means labored for me. I attempted managing a number of catalogues once I began with Lightroom a very long time in the past and it was a nightmare. I shortly switched to a single catalogue workflow and by no means appeared again.

When I’m again from a visit and have hundreds of pictures to import, I carry out the next routine:

  • I create a folder (vacation spot) for brand spanking new photographs (see earlier part)
  • I rename all pictures based mostly on a custom template
  • I do prime degree tagging

Vacation spot

I create a brand new folder with the date and the identify of my journey or the challenge identify (for instance: 2014-09 Quebec) and set it as a vacation spot for the import (see under).

You’ll be able to create new folder from Lightroom or you should use Explorer (PC) or Finder (Mac) and create new folder by way of the file system. I choose the later. I discover it to be quicker.

Lightroom Organization - Creating New FolderLightroom Organization - Creating New Folder

I don’t use subfolders inside the primary listing 2014-09 Quebec, I import all photographs into one folder.


There are lots of methods to batch rename pictures through the import. I exploit a rename template strategy. I created a custom template (preset) and use it with each import.

Lightroom Organization - Lightroom Organization -

The Date and Sequence Quantity are set routinely by Lightroom, however for the Shoot Identify I’ve to set a custom worth, in any other case Lightroom will set a default worth as UNTITLED SHOOT.

Lightroom Organization - rename template Lightroom Organization - rename template

After renaming, all my pictures have the next naming construction:
20150103_Quebec_0001.RAW, 20150103_Quebec_0002.RAW …

Now, if I come throughout a photograph file on my pc I can inform precisely when and the place it was taken with out opening it or checking the meta knowledge.

Prime Degree Tagging

Throughout preliminary import I apply some tagging based mostly on location or sort of photographs. For instance, I’d apply very generic tags like “Canada”, “Quebec”, “Summer” and, if it was household associated journey, I solely apply one tag “Family.”

Collections Based mostly Organization System

My organizational system inside Lightroom is collections based mostly. I created the next construction inside the Collections Panel which helps me manage newly imported photographs.

Lightroom Organization - Collections Based Organization SystemLightroom Organization - Collections Based Organization System

Figuring out Dangerous Photographs​

My first objective, after I import new pictures to Lightroom, is to take away all dangerous photographs, those that may by no means be used. For instance: out of focus photographs.

I shortly undergo all my photographs and use the keyboard shortcut, “X,” to flag all rejected photographs. The method goes very quick even when I’ve hundreds of photographs as a result of I think about one activity solely.

After I end, I delete the rejected information instantly so they don’t go to my backup system.

Figuring out “Keepers”

The subsequent step is my favourite. I’m going by means of the pictures once more and, with the assistance of the shortcut, “P,” (P is for PICKED) I flag all pictures which have the potential to be processed and revealed (keepers). As soon as once more, I solely think about one single activity. I’m not making an attempt to grade picked pictures or set star worth.

When I’m accomplished, I choose all flagged (picked) pictures and drag them to the CANDIDATES assortment inside TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY assortment set (see picture above).

Please observe, once you add pictures to Collections you don’t truly transfer the unique information, you solely create a reference (shortcut) for simpler group.

Now, once I want pictures to publish on my weblog, I’m going to the CANDIDATES assortment and decide 3-Four photographs I like and drag them to the IN PROCESS assortment and take away them from the CANDIDATES assortment on the similar time.

As a way to velocity up the method of modifying pictures in Lightroom, I exploit Lightroom Speedy Modifying. I exploit my Preset Collections to use quite a lot of appears and types to my pictures and see which look I like and what path I need to take. In case you are in exploring Lightroom Speedy Modifying, verify my Introduction to Lightroom Speedy Modifying System tutorial.

Lightroom Organization  - Editing with Lightroom Rapid EditingLightroom Organization  - Editing with Lightroom Rapid Editing

It takes me a few minutes to edit photograph utilizing Lightroom Speedy Modifying workflow

The photograph can keep in the IN PROGRESS assortment for anyplace from a few hours to as much as few months, relying on how briskly I can course of them. Typically I begin modifying one photograph however get tired of it and transfer to a different so processing time can differ.

Once I end with processing and I’ve a last JPEG picture uploaded to my SmugMug portfolio for picture internet hosting and safekeeping, I transfer the unique photograph file from the IN PROGRESS to the PUBLISHED assortment. This manner I’ve quick access to all supply information of my revealed pictures.

Lightroom Organization - archiving on SmugMugLightroom Organization - archiving on SmugMug

The photograph is hosted on SmugMug. It’s straightforward for me to hyperlink it to this text.

Sooner or later, I’ve an choice to go to the folder 2014-09 Quebec to the place I initially imported the photographs, filter all unflagged photographs and see if I missed something fascinating.

I exploit the identical workflow for my household pictures. I’ve devoted the FAMILY assortment with an equivalent collections construction inside.

I all the time attempt to enhance my organizational system and in case you have a suggestion otherwise you need to share your personal system, please depart a remark under.